RENTON, Wash. — The day before his latest suspension was announced last December, Josh Gordon went full extension to haul in a 58-yard pass from Russell Wilson. His only catch of the game set up a touchdown that helped the Seattle Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers.
Gordon’s contribution to that win and the six catches he made in his other four games with Seattle might be instructive when it comes to expectations now that he’s being conditionally reinstated by the NFL for this season’s final two weeks.
The Seahawks (8-3) merely need Gordon to add to an already-strong wide receiver corps wherever he can. As in, a big play here and there as opposed to the kind of incredible performances DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have taken turns delivering this season.
Because barring a major injury between now and when he is eligible to rejoin the team in earnest, Gordon will in all likelihood be either Seattle’s fourth — maybe third — option behind Metcalf (who leads the NFL in receiving) and Lockett (who ranks 16th). David Moore is already having a nice season in the No. 3 role (five touchdowns) ahead of rookie Freddie Swain and Penny Hart. Metcalf, Lockett and Moore rank second in combined receiving yards (2,141) this season among wide receiver trios, trailing Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson of the Panthers (2,353).
“He gives Russ another fun toy to play with,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.
Over his five games last season, Gordon was the Seahawks’ third receiver in playing time behind Lockett and Metcalf. He never finished any of those games with more than two catches or 58 receiving yards, but several of the plays he made came in important situations. Four of his catches converted third downs, including one apiece in the fourth quarter and overtime of their Monday night win over the San Francisco 49ers. Another catch came on fourth down in a loss to the to the Los Angeles Rams.
The final tally over five games: seven catches for 139 yards.
“When you’ve got a lot of different players and different spots that the ball could go, you can’t always predetermine where the ball is gonna go,” Schottenheimer said. “But he made some big-time catches for us on third down, some big plays for us. … I think that it starts with just the timing and the training and him getting with Russ, and I think this year, we’ll be farther ahead because they’ve actually worked together. So I think you can see him get involved hopefully even faster than he did last year.”
For all of the personal struggles Gordon, 29, has had over his career — his most recent suspension was his sixth since 2013 — he made a strong impression on the Seahawks during his month and a half with the team last season. Schottenheimer noted how Gordon worked with Wilson before practice the same way Metcalf does and Greg Olsen did before the veteran tight end was injured.
That should serve Gordon well as he tries to get reintegrated almost exactly one year after previously playing.
“He was an unbelievable pro,” Schottenheimer said. “Just the way he worked. He’s got some stuff he’s got to do to catch up and get up to speed with the things we’re doing. I don’t think that will be any problem. As confident of a catcher as there is the NFL. His hands and his ability to make plays in traffic separates him.
“I remember the play against Carolina on the big post route where … Russ lays it out there, he goes and gets it and he really only gets a couple of his fingertips on it. But an unbelievable catch going to the ground.”
Gordon isn’t eligible to begin practicing until the Monday of Seattle’s Week 16 game against the Rams. He’s eligible to play in that game, but might need more than one week of practice before the team turns him loose. So it might not be until the regular-season finale or the playoffs when Gordon is back on the field.
“Hopefully he’ll be ready to play and I think also too, just to come in and be an addition to our team,” Wilson said. “We’ve got so many great guys making plays right now. So we’ve just got to stay the course and praying that he’s ready to roll.”